Gordon VanGilder, a 72 year old retired schoolteacher, now faces felony charges for possessing a 225 year old flintlock pistol, which he says he told a sheriff’s deputy about during a routine traffic stop. [NRA YouTube] More: Charles Cooke, Scott Greenfield (current New Jersey law specifically prohibits possession of antique firearms, a provision one lawmaker there would like to fix). For more on the tender mercies of New Jersey gun control laws, see our coverage of the Brian Aitken case.
- Bi-counsel-ar? “Lawyer Defending Congressman’s Wife in Bigamy Case Accuses Client of Having a Second Lawyer” [Slate]
- “Why tort liability for data breaches won’t improve cybersecurity” [Stewart Baker]
- Pennsylvania passes a new gun law, and suddenly liberal standing with attorney fee shifting stops being the progressive position [Harrisburg Patriot-News]
- “Letting a case die like a pet rat forgotten in the garage” [Ken at Popehat on Todd Kincannon challenge to South Carolina state bar discipline threats]
- Getting to it late: hour-long Cato podcast with Randy Barnett on his book Structure of Liberty including Aaron Ross Powell, Trevor Burrus;
- Once a fun party town, New Orleans now will ban vaping in private clubs and while waiting in line at drive-throughs [Christopher Fountain, Ronald Bailey on vaping bans and public health] More: Bailey on exaggeration of risks, Jacob Sullum on California proposal;
- Colorado legislature looks serious about tackling liability reform [Denver Business Journal]
Per documents released in response to a FOIA request, the federal government maintains a large program using automatic license-plate readers to track vehicles in real time (not just in later investigation) and nationwide (not just near borders). The program “collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways.” The resulting photographs are “sometimes” clear enough to identify drivers or passengers. “One email written in 2010 said the primary purpose of the program was asset forfeiture.” Although the program is run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, its data is increasingly shared for investigations unrelated to drugs. [Wall Street Journal]
Forfeiture-driven law enforcement is at this point deeply embedded in our practice at both federal and local levels, and the small and ambiguous federal-level reforms announced by AG Holder earlier this month are unlikely to turn that around in themselves.
Conor Friedersdorf comments: “The DEA will obviously continue to lose the War on Drugs. We’ve traded our freedom to drive around without being tracked for next to nothing. … Unfortunately, leaders in the U.S. law enforcement community feel that they’re justified in secretly adopting sweeping new methods with huge civil liberties implications.” (cross-posted and expanded at Cato at Liberty). A different view: Jazz Shaw, Hot Air (could be useful in “managing crime,” and think of the children: unless we let government monitor our comings and goings, the throwers of little girls into vans will win). And more: They can watch your car, but as Waze flap confirms, don’t you dare watch theirs [Liz Sheld]
Update: new emails reveal plans of even wider scope, including a proposal (which DEA says was not acted on) to cooperate with BATF to track license plates of gun show attendees. The Guardian quotes me about the chilling effect systematic surveillance can have on the exercise of rights, and about the impetus for cooperation between Right and Left on reining in law enforcement use of data tracking. Note pp. 10, 27-28 of this NRA amicus brief in an ACLU mass-surveillance case. And earlier on license plate tracking here (Los Angeles FOIA), here and here (Maryland), and here (Radley Balko). And with the rapid development of onboard computer technology, our cars ourselves could soon be reporting our driving habits to the government. But that’d never happen, right? [Steven Greenhut] “Taxing Us To Spy On Us” [Chris Edwards]
Glasgow, Kentucky: “A former Glasgow police officer is suing a Barren County gun store after being handed a loaded gun from under the counter and accidentally shooting his finger off.” [WBKO]
- “Don’t the attorneys who bring these [sled injury municipal] lawsuits have kids and don’t any of them go sledding together?” [Abby Schachter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, quoting my response to that question; Nicole Kaeding, Cato; earlier]
- Eighth Circuit sends back for reconsideration lower court’s $4.7 million fee award against EEOC to trucking company it sued [Transport Topics, opinion, earlier]
- Long Island: judges have awarded at least $638K in court appointments to influential Nassau Democrat [Newsday]
- Or just call them “competition”: “Uber Called ‘Criminal Enterprise’ by Philadelphia Cab Owners” [Bloomberg]
- Update: New Jersey attorney Paul Bergrin loses appeal in “No Kemo, no case” witness murder affair [opinion, 2012 round, earlier]
- More on flaws of suit seeking to blame gun business for Sandy Hook massacre [Nicholas Johnson, Liberty and Law, earlier]
- Local man tips Eugene Volokh, Ken White (Popehat), and Steve Hayward (Power Line Blog) to irresistible free-speech story, internet goes crazy [Pete McCarthy, Frederick News Post, on how Kirby Delauter story went viral; earlier]
The program, in the town of Beloit, Wisconsin, drew few takers and much ridicule; it was quickly called off [Lowering the Bar]
In several 2010 posts we covered the story of Brian Aitken, who was imprisoned by the state of New Jersey simply for carrying unloaded guns and ammo in his trunk (really, that was the extent of the crime). Last week Cato hosted Aitken to talk on his new book The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom. Tim Lynch of Cato moderated, and I gave comments. Event description:
In 2009 Brian Aitken, a media consultant and web entrepreneur, ran afoul of New Jersey’s draconian gun laws when he was arrested while transporting two handguns unloaded and locked in the trunk of his car. Despite the fact that Aitken owned the guns legally and had called the New Jersey State Police for advice on how to legally transport his firearms, he found himself sentenced to seven years in prison.
In 2010 New Jersey governor Chris Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence. But Aitken’s experience, like that of other law-abiding gun owners who’ve faced long prison sentences for honest mistakes, raises troubling questions about gun-law overreach, prosecutorial discretion, and judicial abdication.
I recommended the book as a riveting and outrageous read, yet leavened with hope because of the story of the strong public movement that formed to protest the injustice of his incarceration. In my comments, I mentioned the feds’ heavily armed raid on an Indiana antiquities collector. More on that story here.
The new lawsuit by the prominent Connecticut personal-injury firm of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder [news coverage: WSJ Law Blog, CNN] seeks to get around the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by latching on to the law’s narrow exception for “negligent entrustment.” That’s not a reasonable reading of the law, and I argue in a new post at Cato at Liberty that courts should toss attempts like these to revive gun control through litigation, all the more so because legislative attempts to overturn PLCAA (as I discussed last year) are rightfully going nowhere.
Some out there seem to think it’s okay to use litigation as a way of lashing out against opponents, whether by way of a winning case or not:
Newtown families sue gunmaker for massacre http://t.co/ZmbbAqd0lL good for them even tho may be dismd at least they take a swing at them
— Danny Wash (@danwash) December 15, 2014
More: “The Sandy Hook Families’ Lawsuit Against Bushmaster Will Fail. Here’s Why.” [Bob Adams, Bearing Arms] And Eugene Volokh’s analysis breaks down the provisions of PLCAA and its interaction with the specifics of Connecticut law, concluding that “unless there is some evidence that the defendant manufacturers and gun sellers in this case violated some specific gun regulations (judgments actually made by legislatures), plaintiffs’ claim will go nowhere — and rightly so, I think.” Yet more: Steve Chapman.
“Fox Business Network’s John Stossel interviews US Consumer Coalition’s Brian Wise and Kat O’Connor, owner of TomKat Ammunition LLC, on the Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point.” The Gaithersburg-based ammo seller was cut off from credit card processing services and suspects that the federal Choke Point program was the reason. [cross-posted from Free State Notes; earlier on Operation Choke Point].
NPR’s This American Life digs into some bizarrely counterproductive sting tactics by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which might have gone unchallenged had the bureau not stiffed a Milwaukee landlord badly enough to provoke him into taking his story to Journal Sentinel reporter John Diedrich. “The whole effort has resulted in some attempts to actually disband the entire ATF, which might not be such a bad idea.” BATF is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. [Mike Masnick, TechDirt citing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and This American Life; earlier on stash house entrapment]